Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
Monday, March 2nd, 2015
A great investigation into the usability benefits of allowing users to fill in their passwords in plain text.
Major caveat: make sure you still offer the ability to mask passwords too.
Monday, May 6th, 2013
Before I settled into making websites, I was something of a drifter. I spent my early twenties busking and hitch-hiking my way around Europe. In retrospect, it was as if I were waiting for the web to be invented.
I eventually settled in the town of Freiburg in Germany’s Black Forest. There was still no sign of the web so I continued to earn money by playing music on the street. German society has a reputation for being efficiently well-structured and, true to form, there were even rules about which times of day were suitable for busking. I could play music on the street between 11am and noon, and between 4:30pm and 6pm. Playing outside those hours was verboten.
I sometimes bent the rules. Technically, I didn’t play on the street outside the officially-designated times, but I did play under the street in a pedestrian passageway that had particularly good acoustics. I think I could legitimately claim that I was just practicing and if any passers-by happened to throw money into my bouzouki case, well that was just a bonus.
There was just one problem with this underground passageway. It was quite close to the local police station and the occasional police officer would pass through on his way to work. There was one plainclothes policeman in particular who told me to stop playing the first time he walked past. When he caught me again, his warning was more stern. He recognised me. I recognised him. Even when I wasn’t playing music, we would see each other on the street and exchange glares. In my mind I filed him under the “nemesis” category.
One day I was walking into town to find a good spot to play (during the appointed hours, I might add) when it started to rain. I didn’t have much further to go but there was a tram stop right next to me and a tram was pulling up, headed in the right direction. “It’s only one or two stops,” I thought. “I might as well hop on.”
The tram system operated on a trust system. You could just get on a tram and it was up to you to make sure you had a valid ticket. This system was enforced with occasional inspections but they were very rare. I was taking my chances by riding the tram for two stops without a ticket but it didn’t seem like much of a gamble. This was the day that my luck ran out.
Two inspectors got on the tram and started checking tickets. When they came ‘round to me, I told them that I didn’t have a ticket. The punishment for schwarzfahren—riding without a ticket—was an on-the-spot fine of 60 deutschmarks (this was back in the days before the euro). I didn’t have 60 marks; I didn’t have any money at all. They asked to see my identification. I didn’t have any identification with me. They took me from the tram and marched me off to the police station.
One of the cops sat me down at his desk. He asked me for my details and pecked my answers into his typewriter. Once he had my name and my address, we got down to the tricky matter of figuring out what to do next. I told him to simply let me go so that I could play music on the street during the appointed hours. Once I had busked up 60 marks, I would go to the transport authority and pay my fine. He gruffly pointed out the flaw with that plan: because I had no ID with me, there was no way they could know for sure that I was who I said I was or that I lived where I said I lived. So if they let me go, there’s no incentive for me to pay the fine. I gave him my word. He didn’t accept it. We had reached an impasse.
At that moment, who should walk in to the police station but my plainclothes nemesis. “You!” he said as soon as he saw me. My heart sank. Now I was in real trouble.
“Oh, you know this guy?” asked the policeman at whose desk I was sitting. “He was riding the tram without a ticket and he doesn’t have money for the fine. He claims he’s going to make enough money to pay the fine by playing music on the street. Can you believe that?” he asked mockingly.
“Yes,” said the plainclothes cop. “He’s good. He’s got a really unique voice.”
I was flabbergasted! My sworn enemy was vouching for me! He looked at me, nodded, and continued on his way.
His word was good enough. They let me go with a slip of paper that I was to take to the transportation office when I paid my fine. I’m sure they thought that it was a lost cause but I went out busking that afternoon and the next morning until I had earned 60 marks. Then I went out to the transport authority—paying for my tram fare this time—and I gave them the money and the slip of paper from the police station. I kept my word.
There’s a lesson to be learned here, and it’s this: you should always give money to buskers.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
I concur completely with Luke’s assessment here. Most password-masking on the web is just security theatre. Displaying password inputs by default (but with an option to hide) should be the norm.
Thursday, October 25th, 2012
Another responsive design case study. This one’s got numbers too.
Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Rejoice! For Kevin Cornell’s new book is available to you through the power of print on demand. I’ve ordered mine. And should you.
Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Aza Raskin on the UI failings of kitchens.
Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
An excellent rebuttal by Steven Pinker to Nicholas Carr's usual trolling.
Monday, July 26th, 2010
Yes! Yes! Yes! An excellent fisking of that ridiculous New York Times article that confused problems in the present with data longevity.
Sunday, July 25th, 2010
A great Fisking by Ben of (very silly, IMHO) morally panicked Guardian article on Foursquare.
Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
Busker Du (dial-up) is a recording service for buskers through the telephone (preferably public payphones hidden in subway stations).
Saturday, January 17th, 2009
Follow the adventure of this group of artists from around the world, in a Japanese fold Moleskine sketchbook exchange.
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
Another beautiful frosty design from the Erskine chaps.
Friday, March 21st, 2008
Intrepid adventurer Ben Saunders is off again. This time he aims to to set a new world speed record from Ward Hunt Island to the Geographic North Pole. He is armed with a beautiful website courtesy of Colly and the lads at Erskine.
Wednesday, March 19th, 2008
Translation From MS-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Joel Spolsky’s “Martian Headsets” [dive into mark]
Mark Pilgrim fisks Joel Spolsky. He's not greedy either: there's still plenty of straw men left in Spolsky's screed for the rest of us to skewer.
Thursday, September 20th, 2007
Dan is claiming that these notebooks could be moleskin killers. I am intrigued and I do like the nice use of Futura.
Monday, April 9th, 2007
Joshua Bell goes busking in the Metro. This well-written article could have been disheartening but, as a former busker myself, I found it downright reassuring.
Friday, December 8th, 2006
Kathy Sierra doesn't like Twitter. Join us, Kathy... be a lover, not a hater.
Monday, April 17th, 2006
This is priceless... but my iPod feels somehow dirty now.
Monday, December 19th, 2005
You can skin Adium using just XHTML and CSS. Who knew?